News & Media

Gun Violence is a Public Health Crisis

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The question of mental illness runs through news headlines every time the country faces yet another tragic mass shooting, and very often before a medical diagnosis is released.

Soon after, policy issues inevitably enter the discussion. Questions like, "What types of mental illness should we look for?" and "What policies should be in place to keep guns away from the potentially dangerous mentally ill?" abound.

The Michigan State Medical Society is doing its part to put evidence-based gun violence prevention policies in place for physicians across Michigan and the country. Over the years, MSMS has sent the American Medical Association a number of proposals related to gun violence prevention, including the most recent, "How to Address Gun Violence Using a Public Health Approach."

With these proposals in place, physicians are able to better treat, educate and cope with patients who may show signs of violence.

Betty Chu, MD, MBA, president of MSMS and chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, says it's clear that gun control is much more than a safety issue. It's a public health issue, requiring a widespread and all-inclusive solution.

"The proposals from MSMS and partner institutions across the country have led to health screenings, patient counseling on gun safety, and referral to mental health services for those with behavioral or emotional medical conditions," said Chu. "These are all effective ways physicians can fulfill their role in preventing firearm injuries."

In addition, Bobby Mukkamala, MD, chair of MSMS Board of Directors, says MSMS encourages a number of measures to circumvent gun violence on a national, state and local level.

"Medical education programs on the prevention of gun violence and evidence-based research on firearm injuries, including the use of firearms injury databases to inform health policy, are all priorities for MSMS," said Mukkamala.

According to a recent Forbes article, the American Medical Association's policy-making House of Delegates is set to consider close to a dozen proposals on gun control and public safety during its annual meeting this June 9-13 in Chicago. The delegates' actions have the potential to put even more momentum behind legislation related to gun control measures prior to November's mid-term elections.

Here are a few of the gun violence prevention proposals that have been delivered straight from the Michigan State Medical Society to the American Medical Association over the years:

2018: Address Gun Violence using a Public Health Approach
MSMS supports physicians working with local and state public health agencies, law enforcement agencies, and other community organizations and leaders to identify, develop and evaluate strategies to increase firearm safety and prevent firearm injury and death. MSMS also supports evidence-based research on gun-related injuries and deaths, including funding for such research, and the collection of health care, medical examiner, and criminal justice data at the local, state, and federal level.

2016: Firearm-Related Injury and Death: Adopt A Call to Action
MSMS endorses the specific recommendations made in the publication "Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action From 8 Health Professional Organizations and the American Bar Association," which is aimed at reducing the health and public health consequences of firearms and lobbies for their adoption.

2016: Oppose Imposition of Penalties on Local Units of Government and/or Officials and Staff
MSMS opposes the prohibition of local units of government and/or their elected or appointed officials or staff from imposing restrictions on the ownership, registration, purchase, sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of guns within their area of jurisdiction and/or punishment for the imposition of such restrictions.

2014: Gun Violence Prevention as a Continuing Medical Education Topic
MSMS encourages the inclusion of presentations about the prevention of gun violence in national, state, and local continuing medical education programs.

2013: Reduction of Gun Violence
MSMS supports federal and state legislation ensuring that physicians can fulfill their role in preventing firearm injuries by health screening, patient counseling on gun safety, and referral to mental health services for those with behavioral/emotional medical conditions and supports federal and state evidence-based research on firearm injury and the use of state/national firearms injury databases to inform state/federal health policy.